Croquetas are a very typical dish in Spain. You can find them made with jamón serrano, caldo de puchero (chicken soup instead of milk), chicken, fish, shrimp, cheese… in fact, you can create your own recipe, if you like.
Of course, they are not only typical of Spain. You can find them in France (croquettes), the Netherlands (kroket), where they are eaten with mustard and also come shaped as round balls (then called bitterballen), and even as far away as Japan!
When I’m outside of Spain and do not have access to really good jamón, I make mine with chicken broth, or bechamel, and chicken. And although my husband can’t get enough of them with the patatas fritas (french fries) that I make, I’m always looking for variations to make something different.
My friend Santi, who is a great cook, gave me the following recipe, which I had been dreaming of trying since I’ve never had them like this before. They are a bit time-consuming to make, but well worth the effort!
Croquetas de Arroz y Piñones (Rice and Pine Nut Croquetas), adapted version, makes about 54
- 1 1/2 cups arborio or paella rice
- 3/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 large carrots
- fine sea salt
- black pepper
- 1 1/2 to 2 liters of almond milk (or if you prefer, cow’s milk can be used)
- 2-3 eggs, beaten
- olive oil, for frying
Prepare the almond milk in advance. See recipe here. The thicker the milk, the better, as it will help achieve the desired consistency.Peel, clean and chop the carrots into very small squares.
In a non-stick pan, on medium heat, place the rice, pine nuts and carrots. Cover with milk (about 2/3 liter). Cook, stirring constantly (20-35 minutes total). Add the remainder of the milk little by little, as you’re cooking and the mixture thickens. You want to achieve a thick consistency, like that used in regular croquetas. (See picture below).
The mixture will be done when the rice is cooked and the consistency is thick. You should be able to put your spatula through the mixture and the pan will come up clean below its path (see below). Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg, to taste. Mix well.
Pour the mixture into a shallow glass container and allow it to reach room temperature. Do not cover, so it can breathe. Then refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight (even better) until it hardens. (At this point as Santi says, you can relax from your cooking-fitness session and your biceps should be much more shapely from all the stirring! 😉 Now, we can proceed to cleaning the mess…
Get ready for the second part of your workout:
To shape the croquetas, we prepare three dishes first. In one dish, add cornflour (other flour can be used); in another dish, add cornmeal; and in a third dish, beat 2 or 3 eggs. Set aside.
With two same-sized soup spoons, we take spoonfuls of the mixture and shape with the spoons into oval mounds. If you want to make them a bit rounder at the edges, shape additionally with your hands. Make hands slightly damp to avoid having the mixture stick to them.
Once all the croquetas are shaped, roll each through the cornflour, then the eggs, and last through the cornmeal. (If you’re going to freeze them to use at a later date, do so now. When using frozen croquetas, be sure to thaw out thoroughly before frying.)
Fry them in olive oil, until golden brown. Serve alone as a tapa or pair with your favourite side dish!
By the way, did you know that pine nuts have a lot of beneficial properties? They contain Vitamins B1 and E, potassium, phosphate, calcium, magnesium and iron, as well as folic acid. They are an antioxidant and contain mono-saturated fats.They are recommended to:
- Reduce stress
- Reduce cholesterol
- During lactation
- During pregnancy: they help in the healthy formation of the fetus
- Good functioning of the intestinal tract
- Help prevent osteoporosis and decalcification
- Help improve cardiovascular and degenerative problems
- Improve the functioning of the nervous system
- Alleviate tiredness
- Help with anemia
- It’s a tonic and has restorative properties
- Combats cancer